It’s time for another dev blog! This past month has seen the start of alpha testing, lots of new weapons and attachments, and so much more. Read on for all the details.
Alpha Has Begun
We’re happy to announce that Alpha testing for Project Orion has officially begun! We released our first test build through Steam last week, with a follow-up build just this past Friday. We’ve already received some great feedback from our testers that will really help improve the game.
Alpha testing will be a long-term process as we continue to release updates in the coming months to test new features, missions, and bug fixes. There is no NDA involved with the alpha, so our testers are free to discuss their experiences, post videos, or even stream the game.
One of the downsides of being an independent studio is our budget constraints. In most cases it means we have to create more of our own content for the game, rather than relying on help from outside parties. In this case we’re talking about music.
Usually a game studio would have a composer and sometimes even a whole orchestra or group of musicians to help them create a score that works with the game to help deliver a great experience for the player. Unfortunately, our team doesn’t include an in house musician or composer, nor do we have the money to hire one on contract. This means in order to score our game we need to find suitable pre-existing tracks that we can pay a more modest fee to license for our uses. While there is a lot of great music out there for use, it can be difficult to find what we’re looking for. It’s time consuming just to listen through the hundreds of tracks that may or may not be what we need. Sometimes even after finding a great track that really fits beautifully with Project Orion we find that the way it’s been composed doesn’t lend itself to implementation in game, either because it can’t be made to loop through gameplay sections with an indefinite amount of time or because the overall sound palette interferes with the gameplay sound too much.
All of this means that finding the right music for Project Orion has proved difficult to say the least. However, we have made some good progress over the past few weeks in finding some more suitable assets that should be making their way into the game soon, it’s just a matter of taking our time and making sure everything sounds the best it possibly can with the resources available to us.
As we mentioned last month the art team has been very busy working on new weapons and attachments for the Orion. Working so hard in fact that they’ve created five new weapons and seven attachments, with more in-progress! Here are a few of them in-game:
As usual there is lots more being worked on behind the scenes as well. Progress continues on the Outer Systems Alliance fleet, we’re starting on the hangar for the Orion, and the Orion itself is getting another update to better support various attachments and modifications.
The past month has marked many changes throughout the codebase as we worked on getting the alpha released and continued developing new missions. Working on new missions always leads to changes throughout the project as improvements and new features are added to accomplish the various goals we have for the missions we’re working on.
One of the missions we’ve been spending a lot of time on has very high requirements for the AI. This new unit needs to be fast, agile, and very quick to adapt to changes in the level. Thankfully our AI system was designed to make creating unique units easier by reusing different behaviors. By removing some behaviors specific to the base fighter and tweaking the parameters on other behaviors we we’re able to get a working prototype of our new specialized unit in just a few minutes. From there we can work on creating new behaviors that handle the extra logic we need from our custom unit.
We’ve also spent some time implementing a graphics technique called GPU Instancing in order to boost performance. The basic concept behind instancing is instead of telling the GPU to draw one unit, then the next, and the next, and so on, we simply say draw all of these things in one go because they all look the same. This works great for things like debris, particles, and projectiles. While we haven’t started really optimizing the game yet, this feature was just too good to delay.
Thanks for joining us for this month’s Dev Blog! And a special thank you to all those of you who have been playing our Alpha builds and continuing to provide us with the feedback we need to improve the Project Orion experience. As always we’ll have more updates next month when you can look forward to hearing about our progress on new missions, new models, and more.